Are preachers really a good source of biblical information?

Are preachers a good source of Biblical information? About what it says? Yes, probably.  But about facts of who wrote it, where it came from, or possible discrepancies in its lineage… Not so much.

I come from a Southern Baptist background, and they accept preachers with all kinds of educational background; but I think that most preachers (or priests) know that the Bible was not written by the people they claim wrote it.  For instance, Moses didn’t write the Pentateuch, the disciples did not right the Gospels, etc.  They had to have had enough curiosity about it to study it in depth, and should have come across many scholarly articles to that effect.  But will they tell you that?   Not likely.

If your preacher has gone to seminary and has studied bible sources and authenticity, and tell you that Luke said this, or John said that, then they aren’t honestly conveying what they know to be true.  They will claim that they are just using “standard convention” when talking about, but are they?  The truth is nobody knows who wrote any of the books of the Bible; period.

I’ve talked to former preachers, and religious professors, and they say that it’s almost impossible to go through seminary and come out still believing that the Bible is the word of God.

The truth about the Bible is that it was written by many people over many centuries, and nobody knows who wrote which books, not even in the New Testament.  We don’ have ANY original manuscripts, and the earliest copies that exist differ greatly from one another.  Also, there have been thousands of changes made to them as the centuries have passed, and whole paragraphs have been added to them.

For example, that part in Mark (16:15-18) where Jesus says “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”?   It’s not in the earliest copies of the manuscripts.  Ditto the part where it says that you can drink poison, talk in tongues and handle snakes. Not there.

The Grace Bible College Answers website admits:

“Although the vast majority of later Greek manuscripts contain Mark 16:9-20, the Gospel of Mark ends at verse 8 in two of the oldest and most respected manuscripts, the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus. As the oldest manuscripts are known to be the most accurate because there were fewer generations of copies from the original autographs (i.e., they are much closer in time to the originals), and the oldest manuscripts do not contain vv. 9-20, we can conclude that these verses were added later by scribes. The King James Version of the Bible, as well as the New King James, contains vv. 9-20 because the King James used medieval manuscripts as the basis of its translation. Since 1611, however, older and more accurate manuscripts have been discovered and they affirm that vv. 9-20 were not in the original Gospel of Mark.”

Bruce Metzger, in The Canon of the New Testament, pp 269-270 says:

“Today we know that the last twelve verses of the Gospel according to Mark (xvi. 9-20) are absent from the oldest Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and Armenian manuscripts, and that in other manuscripts asterisks or obeli mark the verses as doubtful or spurious.”

Remember the passage about “Let the one who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.”  (John 8:7)  This is one of the most popular stories in the bible, but that’s a later interpolation as well:

In p 1830,  Harper Collins Study Bible:

“The most ancient authorities lack 7.53—8.11; other authorities add the passage here or after 7.36 or after 21.25 or after Luke 21.38, with variations of text; some mark the passage as doubtful.  Scholars generally agree that this story was not originally part of the Gospel of John.

Protestant fundamentalist preachers, and Muslim Imam’s, will tell you what you have to believe, and if you don’t, well there’s the door (and BTW, it’s the door to Hell).   They generally are not formally educated in their understanding of their holy book, and have only learned it from reading it and it only, repeatedly.

However, if your preachers are anything like the more enlightened, liberal ones that I had during my Christian upbringing, they may very well be aware of the fact that no one knows who wrote the scriptures, but they would never tell you that.   That is, unless you corner them and make them confess to it.

Sometimes, if you go to them with a question that requires any kind of thought, the first thing they will do is separate you from the rest of the flock, and talk to you quietly.  They will tell you what they think you personally need to know, and that might be very different from what they will tell your fellow parishioner when they come to him with their questions.  They will tell you enough to satisfy your curiosity but still keep you in the pew.   They want to keep each follower in their own little customized bubble of belief.

Sometimes they won’t even do that.  They’ll throw the ball back in your court by saying “You must have faith”; meaning you have to accept what they’ve been telling you even if it doesn’t make any sense to you.

They may generalize during the telling of a bible story that they’re preaching from the pulpit, but have you ever heard them question the source of the text, or the message that it might contain?  No, it’s always their own interpretation that they want to “sell” at the moment.  It’s always the “inerrant word of God”, and the Gospels are always presented as having been written by the character involved.  No questions from the pews allowed.  We don’t want any discussions going on there! Religion is authoritarian and autocratic.

An excellent source of information about the inaccuracies of the Bible in general, and Jesus in particular, is “Misquoting Jesus, The Story Behind Who Changed The Bible” by Professor Bart D. Ehrman.   Click here for the NPR Fresh Air interview, recorded in December 14, 2005, where Terry Gross and Bart Ehrman are talking about his book.

The fantastic stories in the bible are just that: Fantastic (n) imaginative or fanciful; remote from reality. Think before believing things that go against the very laws of nature (miracles, souls, life-after death, talking animals, etc.)  Wishful thinking has been the fall of many a trusting person.  The most gullible people, and the easiest “marks”, are the ones who want to believe what they’re being told.  Be sure you have a well-stocked Baloney Detection Kit before setting out on your journey of discovery.

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